My name is David Tai, and I am an optometrist at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Glendale, the first store in Queens, NY. I wanted to share my story hoping it could help other young ODs to get more insight about practicing at a National Vision America’s Best location.
How I ended up in New York
I was born in Taiwan, and went to school in Hong Kong and graduated medical school in China before moving to New York to attend SUNY College of Optometry. I have moved around my whole life and would like to find a place I can call home. Throughout my schooling at SUNY, I really grew my personal and professional network within the New York City area.
New York is such a great city where anyone can become anything and I personally felt like I could create a great future here. I was grateful that America’s Best started opening locations in the city right at the time I was looking for a full-time job.
I love it here and find it very rewarding to work in such a vibrant, energetic city.
Why I chose America’s Best in Queens
I really got to know the company through a dinner meeting that National Vision hosted while I was in optometry school. I remember being at that dinner meeting, and being instantly intrigued by what they could offer optometrists, which I came to value even more after I started practicing. I am glad I considered them as a career option after graduating.
This practice was one of the first America’s Best locations in the New York City area. I chose this location because it is closer to Manhattan where everything happens. I was able to be part of it from the ground up, develop key relationships with the staff from day one, and build up my own patient base.
Opening a brand new store was a great experience.
It was really interesting to watch everything get started and unfold. I was able to learn a lot about the business side of optometry as well. Some of the staff had transferred from other America’s Best stores, and some, like me, were brand new to the company. Watching the store grow and achieve goals is very rewarding.
There is no greater thing than being able to “clock out” at the end of the day and move on to my personal life. That’s one thing I really like about working at America’s Best—the great work-life balance it offers me. I don’t need to worry about the things I would if I ran a private practice or owned a sublease. While those are great options for some, the reality is that they are also a lot of work and it’s very difficult to achieve that same level of work-life balance in those types of settings.
When I am not seeing patients, I am really interested in event planning and hosting, as well as the fashion side of optometry. I host “Crazy Rich Asians” galas to build a platform for Asian eyewear and eye care brands and more. I partake in these sorts of events regularly outside of the exam lane and am really passionate about forming bridges between communities. Working here gives me the opportunity to partake in my interests both inside and outside of optometry, which I believe makes me a better doctor.
Who is the right fit for this type of setting?
I think that this type of setting is a great option for everyone! As a young optometrist, I definitely think that working for National Vision was a great choice to jumpstart my career and find confidence as a new clinician. You learn so many things after school, especially around real-world optometry and interacting with patients outside the exam lane.
Working in a new store gave me a great opportunity to learn these lessons alongside the rest of the staff. And for those who join an established store, you have the confidence of knowing you’re surrounded by experienced optical staff and not on your own!
My average workday
Each morning, my day starts with a short commute. While the definition of short varies depending on who you ask, my commute, especially for living in New York City, is short for me! Within 10 minutes of leaving my apartment, I am at the office. The fact that I ride a motorcycle to work every day lets me get around the bustling traffic; this helps quicken up that morning commute and also gets me energized.
My hours and patient volume
I work five days a week. I have Sundays off and was given the option to choose one weekday to have off, and I chose Thursday. I see patients from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm with lunch from 2-3 pm. I usually get to work around 9:00 am to chat with the staff and prepare my schedule for the day.
Between seeing patients, I get to take a one-hour lunch break, hang out in the breakroom, and catch up with staff. It’s important to have a good relationship with the people you work with, especially when you need a break from a busy day!
While volume varies depending on the day, I find that even on my busiest days, volume is never an issue because I have such a great team of techs and staff supporting me. The team always helps me ensure that everything is running smoothly. I know I can always count on them!
Working at America’s Best, I do see a higher amount of patients per day than when I was in school—which is certainly something anyone can expect in any setting. It’s something to get used to, but it’s very manageable. Having such great techs by my side definitely helps. I never feel like my time is being wasted —there’s always something to do!
Our promise to patients
National Vision provides a unique experience that some other eye care providers do not. Our patient experience is built upon providing care that is accessible, affordable, and of great quality. We strive to provide the best experience possible and to make the patient know their individual needs are heard and important to us.
National Vision is committed to being affordable and it’s great knowing that I can help a lot of people who wouldn’t get help otherwise. I encounter many patients who haven’t had an eye exam in years, or ever, simply because they couldn’t afford it. This really creates amazing moments of providing that first pair of glasses or contacts to patients, or at times that are more serious, diagnosing ocular disease or a potential systemic health issue the patient was not aware of.
Even if a patient doesn’t have insurance, they can still come in and know that they can get the quality care they deserve, for a price they can afford. And that helps me to leave every day feeling gratified.
My typical patient encounter
My day is usually pretty busy, but I make the most of the time I have with each patient. I’m proud to provide my patients with high quality yet affordable services. People know about America’s Best and they come to us specifically for this reason—affordability. Many of my patients are grateful to finally have an America’s Best in their neighborhood because of what we can offer them. It is not uncommon to have patients who travel from far to get here! It’s great to work for such a well-recognized brand and there is nothing more satisfying than knowing these patients made that commute specifically to see me.
Most of my exams are pretty routine—contact lens fittings and patients needing new glasses prescriptions—but I have had many cases that stood out. For instance, I had one patient with temporal visual field loss and poor vision. Everything seemed to be ok, but we sent him out for an MRI. It turns out that his pituitary gland had gone awry and he ended up getting surgery the same day.
In another instance, I had a patient come in with complaints of deteriorating vision over the past year. Upon further examination, I discovered that she had worsening keratoconus in both eyes. Being able to get to the root cause of her vision loss and provide her with next steps for treatment was really gratifying!
At America’s Best, I am able to practice primary care optometry, providing the patient with the best experience possible. I also have an excellent group of specialists of my choice that I refer out to as needed.
Perks of working for National Vision
It’s nice to work for a company that values both their employees and their patients. The compensation and benefits for doctors are highly rewarding. National Vision believes in taking care of their doctors so their doctors can take care of their patients.
Along with great benefits, there are other perks like continuing education. CE benefits are something I didn’t really value as a student; I certainly didn’t realize how involved it was and how expensive it could be. National Vision provides such a great service to the doctors in their network, hosting an all-expenses-paid CE weekend annually.
How has working for America’s Best helped me become a better optometrist?
America’s Best has provided me with the opportunity to gain an invaluable amount of experience and networking opportunities.
Having various encounters with so many types of patients has helped me not only to get comfortable with the rapport needed to provide a great patient experience, but I’ve also learned how to be as efficient as possible while still providing top-quality care.
Ultimately, I am happy about the path I have chosen. Before you decide, I highly recommend you visit an office inside a National Vision location and see if it would be a good fit for you. Experience it for yourself before deciding!